Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a fairly common digestive and autoimmune disorder in which people cannot tolerate gluten. Gluten is a protein found in rye, barley, wheat, and hundreds of foods made with these grains. In patients with celiac disease, the immune system reacts to the gluten and causes damage to the inner lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients
Celiac disease occur in genetically predisposed people and it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, and sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.
What Causes Celiac Disease?
Human body???s immune system is designed to protect it from foreign invaders. But in people with celiac disease, the foods containing gluten act as trigger and the immune system forms antibodies to gluten which then attack the intestinal lining. This causes inflammation in the intestines and damages the villi leading to prevention of absorption of nutrients.
No exact cause of celiac disease is known and it is believed to run in families.
Signs and symptoms of celiac disease
Celiac disease can show digestive symptoms as well as symptoms in the other parts of the body.
- Abdominal pain & bloating
- Chronic diarrhea
- Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
Other body symptoms include:
- A severe skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- Iron deficiency Anemia
- Weight loss
- Musculoskeletal problems like muscle cramps, joint and bone pain
- Growth problems and failure to thrive (in children)
- Tingling sensation in the legs
- Sores in the mouth
- Missed menstrual periods
- Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
- Delayed puberty
- Dental enamel defects of permanent teeth
How is celiac disease diagnosed?
The diagnosis of celiac disease involves a careful physical examination and complete medical history of the patient. Following tests help the physician to diagnose celiac disease:
- Blood antibodies test
- Blood tests for nutritional deficiencies
- Stool examination
- Biopsy of small intestine
- Skin biopsy
How Is Celiac Disease Treated?
Celiac disease patients can’t eat any foods that contain gluten (including wheat, rye, barley, and oats) and just vanishing gluten from diet usually improves the condition within a few days.
So the only treatment for Celiac disease patients is to remain on gluten-free diet for the rest of their life as eating it can damage the intestine and restart the problem.
Long Term Health Effects of Celiac Disease
It can develop at any age and if left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems like:
- Autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Dermatitis herpetiformis
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Addison’s disease
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Pancreatic insufficiency